You’d think, being a human being, I would be passing familiar with human being body language. Yeah, not so much. When I’m writing and trying to convey emotion through character body language, I end up in this endless nod, head shake, smile, frown loop. Often times, I break this loop by flipping through the pages of one of my favorite reference books: The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression.
Written by angels of literary mercy Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, the Emotion Thesaurus is described thusly:
One of the biggest problem areas for writers is conveying a character’s emotions to the reader in a unique, compelling way. This book comes to the rescue by highlighting 75 emotions and listing the possible body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for each. Using its easy-to-navigate list format, readers can draw inspiration from character cues that range in intensity to match any emotional moment. The Emotion Thesaurus also tackles common emotion-related writing problems and provides methods to overcome them. This writing tool encourages writers to show, not tell emotion and is a creative brainstorming resource for any fiction project.
Of course, it’s generally best to go with your instincts when writing emotional responses for your characters, but a reference like the Emotional Thesaurus is handy when you get stuck. I tend to use it when I’m proofing a first draft, and I notice my characters’ responses are getting repetitive. I spend a lot of time in the anger, fear, and disgust chapters (which says a lot about the stories I write), but, trust me, the book is also useful for authors whose characters dwell in happier environments.
Anyway, highly recommended for the sometimes emotionally challenged author.